VIEW: Return to pragmatism —Chaudhry Fawad Hussain\05\14\story_14-5-2008_pg3_3

VIEW: Return to pragmatism —Chaudhry Fawad Hussain

The only feasible solution to the current political quandary rests in a comprehensive constitutional package aimed at bringing stability to the system

The failure of the political process in the last six decades has led Pakistan to a stage where people at large are confused about their “national interest”. Popular, regional or ethnic interests often seem to supersede the “national interest”. Popular interest is based on emotions and can stand apart from the real national interest.

For example, popular interest demands that Pakistan should at least stand neutral if not against the war against terrorism led by the United States. But it can be argued that the national interest dictates otherwise — we must fight the war against terrorism vigorously if our society is not to be allowed to become hostage to the menace of extremism.

Likewise, the national interest demands that the government concentrate on governance issues of rising poverty, lack of energy, grain shortage(s), and inflation that need immediate attention of the government. But the popular interest is gripped by the judges issue.

I would be delighted if the reinstatement of the 2000 PCO judges is able to resolve this issue once and for all so that the government and its coalition partners can get down to the real business of governance. However, I have little hope that this will happen. The restoration of the 2000 PCO judiciary may bring a new phase of political instability in Pakistan.

The 2000 PCO judges, after all, are human beings with likes and dislikes, pride and prejudice. All of them believe passionately that they have been mistreated and wronged by President Pervez Musharraf. So it is natural to expect that once restored they will want to get down to the business of getting rid of President Musharraf as soon as possible. We may expect them to reopen and hold against past judicial transactions, in particular the case of then General Musharraf’s candidature for the presidential elections. Therefore, we will get into another power crisis and bout of confrontation and instability.

This is why Mr Asif Zardari is looking beyond the curtain and seeking a comprehensive political solution to the problem. This is the trait of a leader who looks beyond the horizon and wants to make decisions in the larger national interest which popular passions preclude.

It is not possible to restore the judges without a political compromise involving the core stakeholders in the system. Theoretically, the powers and functions of the three organs of government, i.e. executive, legislature and judiciary, are well defined. But the fact of the matter is that all three have transgressed into an area that belongs to the other.

What we have seen in the past is that the transgressions of the judiciary in the realm of the executive are much more visible in democratic regimes than what we have seen in times of military rule. The leadership of the PMLN is bent upon getting a short-term benefit that ultimately will turn out to be negative for all stakeholders.

The intentions of the PMLN leadership are clear: they want Mr Iftikhar Chaudhry and his colleagues restored so that they can push Musharraf out of the presidency on the grounds of his ineligibility as a presidential candidate.

But the approach of the PMLN leadership is flawed on this score.

Firstly, they don’t realise that Musharraf cannot be heaved out without a tornado in the political field that compels the army to effect a coup. The intensity of that tornado could well also wipe out the interests of existing political players, including the PMLN leadership.

Secondly, if the judiciary succeeds in ousting the president it will give it enormous political power; and that too is something that no political player should ever desire. In the past, Nawaz Sharif was himself a victim of judicial overkill during the tenure of Mr Sajjad Ali Shah. So he should not want to put Pakistan in the same situation once again. No political prime minister or political party would like its executive powers to be constantly exercised by a politicised judiciary. No government can ever function in the presence of a political superior court that is bent on interfering in every situation related to executive authority.

One hopes that the PMLN will review its strategy and instead of short-term measures consider a long-term solution to existing issues. The only feasible solution to the current political quandary rests in a comprehensive constitutional package aimed at bringing stability to the system.

The writer is a Lahore-based lawyer and columnist and can be reached at

No comments:

Post a Comment